Irrespective of where you work and who you are, ethical
practices are important in every single workplace. However, the spotlight seems
to shine more on the finance and accounting industry. Although one could argue
that ethics are more important in public companies because they affect
shareholders, and even a broader area of the market due to participation in
stock exchanges, unethical accounting practices in private companies still do
harm to business.
Ethical accounting is related to several forms of public good, including
preventing illegal activities such as money
laundering and tax evasion.
In South Africa, some people in the corporate industry and
in government has found themselves caught in the money-laundering web and this
news took the media by storm. Up to date, these professionals has been facing
increased pressure from regulators and the public in the wake of scandals over
the last few years.
It is extremely important for accounting professionals to be
ethical in their practices due to the very nature of their profession. The
nature of accountants’ work puts them in a special position of trust in
relation to their clients, employers and general public, who rely on their
professional judgment and guidance in making decisions. As an accountant, you
wouldn’t want the trust relationship to be jeopardised in any way.
Your Personal Reputation
Getting hired depends on more than skills. How you present your image and
experience is what they call in the finance industry, your personal brand.
This may seem less applicable for finance and accounting jobs than careers in
acting or politics, but personal branding can be valuable in any line of work.
After all, standing out from the crowd is what personal branding is all about,
and that’s a plus in any industry. Personal branding has stepped up to be a key
consideration within your career and it is essential to invest time and effort
in how you choose to present yourself. It could make the difference between you
being very successful in your career or not.
Accountants are given a large amount of trust with personal information. It is
imperative that an accountant be able to keep this information confidential. If
a supplier’s personal information gets out, it could lead to theft of assets
and a possibility of a lawsuit. In order to avoid this type of situation, which
would at the least ruin the professional reputation and the also get the
business name dragged through the mud, accountants must take steps to protect
information, including bank account numbers and tax files to name a few.
Examples of these steps include limiting file access, coding computers and
servers and avoid discussing information with co-workers or friends.
Conflict of Interest
A professional accountant who is in practice may be confronted with
a of conflict
of interest when he or she carries out a professional service.
Examples of situations in which conflicts of interest may arise includes:
one of the managers in one of your departments at work asks you to ‘cook
the books’ because an audit is soon to be done in the company and they
somehow messed up, this is always a difficult dilemma to face.
tendering seems to be the cherry on the cake. For example, if there is a
tender contract out and you give the job to someone because he or she is a
friend or family, this is definitely seen as conflict of interest.
This is perhaps the most common area in which ethics in accounting come into
play. How you record information can echo throughout your firm and beyond. It
can mean the difference between one department showing a profit, another
showing a loss. It can even impact stock prices. Sure, legal laws are a good
guide, but many laws have gaps. Is it ethical to take advantage of them, say,
by moving around numbers to meet certain revenue criteria? After all, you
wouldn’t be breaking any rules, but what about the essence of the rules?
In the end, only you can figure out the best road to take,
but to help steer you, consider consulting the ethical
codes developed by professional organizations. You don’t have to be a
member to benefit from the advice.
No matter what industry or business, you need to take full
responsibility to uphold the highest standards of ethics and professionalism.
If you’re looking to get hired as an accounting
professional, we can assist. With years of specializing in the finance
industry, we understand the market and know what is required from South
Africa’s top companies. Visit our website and apply now.